1093 - Deaths of Malcolm and Margaret

St Margaret - Tragedy in the Scots Royal Family

On 13 November 1093 the Scots royal family experienced a cataclysm. Malcolm Canmore, King of Scots, and his eldest son, Edward, were killed at the battle of Alnwick in Northumberland. Queen Margaret, his wife, was stricken with grief. Born in Hungary and descended from the English Saxon royal family, Margaret married Malcolm of Scotland in 1069. She developed an interesting reputation. Margaret could be best described as a royal saint-in-the-making, famous for her devotions and good deeds to the poor. The Queen was also a very determined woman with strong views about religion. She encouraged changes to bring the Scottish church more into the mainstream of European practice. Contemporary chroniclers noted the disaster which befel her husband and eldest son. Her confessor, Turgot, recorded her death which followed soon after.

Mael-Coluim, son of Donnchadh, archking of Scotland and Edward, his son, were killed by the Franks (namely, in Inber-Alda, in Saxonland). His queen, moreover, Margaret, died of grief therefore before the end of a novena [nine-day period of prayer].

Annals of Ulster, ii, ed. B. MacCarthy, Dublin, 1893.

The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle 1093

And then the Scots chose Malcolm's brother Dufenal [Donald Ban] as king and drove out all the English who had been with King Malcolm. When Duncan, King Malcolm's son, heard all this had happened in this way (he was at King William's court as his father had given him as a hostage to our king's father and so he had remained here), he came to the king, and did such homage as the king wished to have from him, and so with his consent went to Scotland with such support as he could get from Englishmen and Frenchmen, and deprived his kinsman Dufenal [Donald Ban] of the kingdom and was accepted as king. But some of the Scots assembled again and killed nearly all his force, and he himself escaped with a few men. Afterwards they came to an agreement, to the effect that he would never again bring Englishmen nor Frenchmen into the country.

The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle. A revised translation, eds D. Whitelock, D. C. Douglas, S. I. Tucker, London, 1961.

Symeon of Durham

And since none of his men remained to cover it with earth two of the natives placed the king's body in a cart, and buried it in Tynemouth.

Scottish Annals from English Chroniclers, AD 500 to 1286, ed. A. O. Anderson, London, 1908.

The Life of St Margaret

On the fourth day preceding her death, while the king was absent on an expedition, and at so great a distance that it was impossible for any messenger, however swift, to bring her tidings of what was happening to him, she became sadder than usual. Then she said to me, for I was seated near her, 'Perhaps on this very day such a heavy calamity may befall the realm of Scotland as has not been for many ages past.' When I heard these words I paid no great attention to them, but a few days afterwards a messenger arrived who told us that the king was slain on the very day on which the queen had spoken the words narrated. As if foreseeing the future, she has been most urgent with him not to go with the army, but it came to pass - how I know not - that he failed to follow her advice . . .

Her face was already covered with a deadly pallor, when she directed that I, and the other ministers of the sacred Altar along with me, should stand near her and commend her soul to Christ by our psalms. Moreover, she asked that a cross, called the Black Cross, which she always held in the greatest veneration, should be brought to her. There was some delay in opening the chest in which it was kept, during which the queen, sighing deeply, exclaimed, 'O unhappy that we are! O guilty that we are! Shall we not be permitted once more to look upon the Holy Cross!' When at last it was got out of the chest and brought to her, she received it with reverence, and did her best to embrace it and kiss it, and several times she signed herself with it. Although every part of her body was now growing cold, still as long as the warmth of life throbbed at her heart she continued steadfast in prayer. She repeated the whole of the Fiftieth Psalm, and placing the cross before her eyes, she held it there with both her hands . . .

It was at this point that her son [Edgar], who now, after his father, holds in this realm the reins of government, having returned from the army, entered the queen's bedroom . . .

The queen, who seemed to the bystanders to be rapt in an agony, suddenly rallied and spoke to her son. She asked him about his father and brother. He was unwilling to tell the truth, and fearing that if she heard of their death she herself would immediately die, he replied that they were well. But, with a deep sigh she exclaimed, 'I know it, my boy, I know it. By this holy cross, by the bond of our blood, I adjure you to tell me the truth.' Thus pressed, he told her exactly all that had happened . . .

Feeling now that death was close at hand, she at once began the prayer which is usually uttered by the priest before he receives the Body and Blood of our Lord, saying, 'Lord Jesus Christ, who according to the will of the Father, through the co-operation of the Holy Ghost, hast by Thy death given life to the world, deliver me.' As she was saying the words, 'Deliver me,' her soul was freed from the chains of the body, and departed to Christ, the author of true liberty; to Christ whom she had always loved, and by whom she was made a partaker of the happiness of the saints, as she had followed the example of their virtues. Her departure was so calm, so tranquil, that we may conclude her soul passed at once to the land of eternal rest and peace. It was remarkable that her face, which, when she was dying had exhibited the usual pallor of death, became afterwards suffused with fair and warm hues, so that it deemed as if she were not dead but sleeping. Her corpse was shrouded as became a queen, and was borne by us to the Church of the Holy Trinity [in Dunfermline], which she had built. There, as she herself had directed, we committed it to the grave, opposite the altar and the venerable sign of the Holy Cross which she had erected. And thus her body at length rests in that place in which, when alive, she used to humble herself with vigils, prayers, and tears.

Turgot, Life of St Margaret, ed. W. F. Leith, Edinburgh, 1896.

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